What Was the Shortest War in American History?

The shortest war in American history was the Anglo-Zanzibar War, which lasted for only 38 minutes. This brief conflict took place on August 27, 1896, between the United Kingdom and the tiny African island nation of Zanzibar.


At the time, Zanzibar was a British protectorate located off the coast of present-day Tanzania. The country was ruled by Sultan Khalid bin Barghash, who had seized power from his uncle in a coup earlier that year. The British considered Khalid to be an illegitimate ruler and demanded that he step down in favor of his pro-British cousin.

The Conflict

On August 26th, the British issued an ultimatum to Khalid, giving him 24 hours to abdicate the throne or face military action. When Khalid refused to comply, British warships began bombarding the palace and other Targets in Zanzibar City at 9:02 am local time on August 27th.

The Outcome

Despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned, Khalid’s forces put up a brief resistance before surrendering just 38 minutes later. The Sultan fled to German East Africa (now Tanzania) but was eventually captured by the British and exiled to Seychelles for the remainder of his life.


The Anglo-Zanzibar War may have been short-lived but it had significant implications for both parties involved. For Zanzibar, it marked the end of its independence and cemented its status as a British protectorate until gaining full independence in 1963. For Britain, it demonstrated their willingness to use force to maintain control over their territories and influence in Africa.

  • Key Takeaways:
  • The Anglo-Zanzibar War was the shortest war in American history, lasting only 38 minutes.
  • The conflict took place between the United Kingdom and Zanzibar over a dispute about who should rule the country.
  • Despite being significantly outnumbered and outgunned, Zanzibar surrendered after just 38 minutes of fighting.
  • The outcome of the war had significant implications for both parties involved and marked the end of Zanzibar’s independence.

In conclusion, while the Anglo-Zanzibar War may have been brief, it serves as a reminder of the often tumultuous relationship between colonial powers and their territories. Its impact on Zanzibar’s history cannot be understated, and its legacy serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of imperialistic policies.